As more cities begin to allow for and regulate commercial cannabis businesses, the State of California is seeing an influx of cannabis tourism. We’ve written before about the touchy relationships governments have with the idea of “cannabis lounges” (see here and here) and often questioned who will lead us in regards to cannabis tourism (our bets have often been on California).
Consumption of cannabis in public is illegal in the State of California, and many hotels and Air B&B’s do not allow smoking or “drug use” in their guest rooms. Nonetheless, MAUCRSA allows local jurisdictions to authorize the on-site consumption of cannabis by state-licensed retailers and/or microbusinesses, which gives tourists at least one legal way to consume. Specifically, so long as your city or county okays it, retailers and microbusinesses can have on-site consumption if: (1) access to the area where cannabis consumption is allowed is restricted to persons 21 years of age and older, (2) cannabis consumption is not visible from any public place or nonage-restricted area, and (3) the sale or consumption of alcohol or tobacco is not allowed on the premises. However, most local governments have explicitly prohibited “cannabis lounges” and on-site consumption by licensees (including the City of Los Angeles). Some cities, however, are capitalizing on the tourism potential in The Golden State. We have compiled a list of notable locales below.
The City of West Hollywood is the only city in the Los Angeles area that allows for on-site consumption. The City plans to permit eight (8) on-site consumption businesses for smoking, vaping, and ingesting, and it will also allow 8 on-site consumption businesses for edible ingestion only. The window for submission for on-site consumption applications (and for other commercial cannabis businesses) is expected during the month of May, so we may see on-site consumption up and running for the busy summer months. Los Angeles, which is an area already known for tourism, will see a lot of its cannabis tourism go to the City of West Hollywood.
San Francisco has been California’s leader when it comes to the cannabis lounge concept (and cannabis businesses in general). San Francisco’s regulations outright permit retailers and microbusinesses to allow customers to engage in on-site consumption. Unlike other cities that have placed strict limits on consumption lounges or outright banned them, San Francisco is fully embracing the cannabis lounge model.
The City of Oakland allows medical and adult-use cannabis dispensaries the opportunity to apply for and “obtain a secondary on-site consumption permit in order for cannabis to be consumed on the premises of the dispensary.” See Oakland Municipal Code §5.80.025. The City has not disclosed any limits as to how many on-site consumption permits may be issued, but the City has thus far only allowed eight dispensary permits and, as a result, there won’t be more than eight on-site consumption permits available (because only retailers and microbusinesses are allowed to undertake on-site consumption under state law).
The City of Alameda will only issue two dispensary/retailer permits. The City’s ordinance allows those retailers to have on-site use or consumption of cannabis or cannabis products in interior areas of the licensed premises. The City has made it relatively easy for those granted a dispensary/retail permit to also capitalize on on-site consumption.
Palm Springs has expanded its cannabis regulations to allow for cannabis consumer lounges. “Cannabis Lounge Facility” permits are available in the City, and those holding the proper permits may additionally sell medical and adult-use cannabis and cannabis products. With festival activities fast-approaching in the desert cities, many tourists will flock to the Palm Springs area looking to partake under California’s new cannabis laws. Palm Springs will likely see a high demand in cannabis and cannabis products from tourists looking to consume during festival time.
Other California cities that have explored the idea of cannabis lounges are Cathedral City and South Lake Tahoe, but nothing official has happened in either city as of yet. Over time, as legalized cannabis becomes more normalized (and socialized) in the state, California will likely see an increase in cities that allow cannabis lounges. For now though, on-site consumption is a rare occurrence and a political hot potato. And for the few on-site consumption lounges that exist, we expect nothing but success and increased tourism.